Review: African Love Stories edited by Ama Ata Aidoo
Title: African Love Stories
Editor: Aidoo, Ama Ata
Length: 249 pages
Genre: Fiction, Short Stories
Publisher / Year: Ayebia / 2006
Source: Sent to me by the wonderful Iris.
Why I Read It: African literature, edited by Ama Ata Aidoo, a present from Iris, and it includes many favorite authors – do I need to list more reasons?
Date Read: 17/11/11
Just looking at the list of contributors to this anthology is enough to make one drool – of the 21 authors included I’ve read longer works by nine and have absolutely loved them all (Leila Aboulela, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Sefi Atta, Yaba Badoe, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Helen Oyeyemi, Nawal El Saadawi, Veronique Tadjo, and Chika Unigwe – I would read anything published by these authors in a heartbeat, and am working my way through their works). After reading the collection I know for a fact that I must seek out works by the other authors included, because their contributions were just as strong as those from my favorites.
To begin with, the introduction by Aidoo was incredible. She talks about the fact that so many seem to think that love stories don’t exist in Africa or in African literature. She shares a short story titled Achire’s Heart and talks about the story – how universal it is yet how African it also is, and how contemporary. Aidoo talks also about the seriousness of love stories, saying on page ii:
[...] it is a label that speaks of the enormity of the consequences of loving, especially its impact on the lovers themselves, their families, and the entire society in which they live and love.
These are not love stories in the way of romance novels, written where things are easy and predictable and everyone ends up living happily ever after. These are love stories as if taken directly from real life, in many cases. They tell of the joys and the struggles, the ecstasy and the heartbreak that accompany love. They encompass all parts of life from childbirth to marriage to death and everything in between. They are the kind of stories in which we can imagine ourselves, or real characters, and come away with a true sense of life and of love.
I can’t agree enough with Kinna‘s comment on my introduction post to her Ghanaian Literature Week where she said that she considers this one of the best publications from the continent in the new century. Each of the stories tackled some aspect of love and did so in a profound and moving way. The stories are all real and believable, both universal yet so firmly grounded in place and time through the way they are written and the background that weaves its way in to each story.
I won’t talk about any of the stories individually as I feel they are all too perfect to pick out one or two. In each story I felt the characters were well and fully developed, as was the sense of place and time. I never felt that an author was forcing the story into a short number of pages, in each case it seemed perfectly written for the form. It amazes me how these authors are all so adept at writing both longer works (which I’ve read from 9 of the 21 in the past) and of short stories.
Whether you think you like short stories or not, I highly recommend this collection. With this collection I will finally admit that I was wrong in my original assumption that I disliked short stories. Throughout the year I’ve been trying various collections, and I’ve really enjoyed them all. This collection was the best by far, and ranks above most books I’ve read as well, so I must finally admit that Kinna has converted me to this form!